Another social media giant coming under the control of a single billionaire is alarming governments, researchers, and rights groups who are concerned about the amount of data Elon Musk’s Twitter buy will allow him and how far he will take the free speech he has promised.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a statement when the deal was announced on April 25, 2022.
Freedom of speech is a nice idea in principle, but on social media, it doesn’t quite work the same way.
Twitter and other social media companies have over the last several years taken the spreading of misinformation and calls for violence more seriously.
Twitter, for example, permanently banned former US president Donald Trump from the platform for spreading false information blamed for inciting the January 2021 riot on Capitol Hill. It is now feared that Musk could reinstate Trump back onto Twitter.
“We are generally concerned that a self-proclaimed ‘freedom of speech absolutists’ with a record of breaking unions, takes over one of the platforms that are most widely used by human rights defenders, journalists, and activists to pursue their goals,” said Diego Naranjo, Head of Policy at the association European Digital Rights.
“The concentration of wealth of money and power in few hands is always the enemy of democracy, and the fact that one of the most wealthy people on the planet takes over Twitter should put everyone on guard and speed up alternatives to current dominant big tech businesses such as Twitter,” he told Euronews Next.